TC Electronic has released the Finalizer app. The mastering software features compressor, limiter and EQ algorithms from the expensive System 6000. But TC Electronic has also drawn inspiration from online-based mastering services: The Finalizer app comes with a free cloud-based service for audio analysis and metering. Is this a game changer in the world of mastering, as TC Electronic claims?
The company has a point when it says that it revolutionized mastering once before. There was a time in the late 1990s when every studio absolutely had to have a TC Electronic Finalizer. Those rackmount units were everywhere, and they made everything sound so “phat” instantly that many producers couldn’t resist keeping them on at all times. Long before everybody had access to brick wall limiter plug-ins in their DAWs, the Finalizer made it incredibly easy to make a track sound loud and punchy – without bothering to take it to a proper mastering studio. It’s true – the Finalizer probably changed our idea of what mastering is supposed to accomplish and how tracks should sound.
Now they’ve taken the algorithms from the System 6000 – 20 years after its release – and stuck them into a desktop app. Is that enough for another game changer?
TC Electronic Finalizer app
Compared to its hardware counterparts, the TC Electronic Finalizer app has one thing going for it: lots of visual feedback. The meters and analyzers seem to be quite refined. With features like “spectral dynamic contour” and the Spectro Lab Toolbox, it appears that the app can visualize the mastering process in great detail.
According to TC Electronic, the app’s multiband compression, limiting, and EQ algorithms were ported 1:1 from the System 6000, the most advanced of the hardware Finalizers. The Finalizer app also includes tools for M/S balancing, stereo imaging and loudness compensation. The Processing Chain comes with modules for track preparation, limiting, and exporting.
The second part of TC’s new world of mastering is the cloud-based Analyzer. It allows you to upload your tracks, analyze them with a range of visual tools and meters, and compare them to reference tracks. The list of available reference tracks is quite comprehensive and updated regularly. This web service is free for all, even if you don’t own the Finalizer app, which is a really nice touch. But contrary to true online mastering services, it only does analysis, no audio processing.
Why no plug-in?
Reading through the comments, it’s already clear that many users would prefer it if Finalizer was a plug-in. The current stand-alone app makes it impractical, if not impossible, to combine Finalizer with other mastering tools. Say you like the Dynamic EQ from Ozone, but the Finalizer’s multiband compressor? Prefer the Finalizer’s metering and balancing tools, but can’t live without your favorite T-RackS processors? As of now, you’re out of luck, unless you’re willing to embark on a lengthy mission bouncing tracks back and forth.
Wouldn’t it be much better if you could load it into your DAW’s master bus, and use it alongside your preferred EQs, compressors, and other plug-ins? I think so. We can only speculate about the reasons. Is it because of level matching or latency compensation issues, or simply because TC Electronics wants the Finalizer app to be the be all and end all of mastering? We don’t know. But it’s probably safe to say that this new platform would appeal to many more users if it was a plug-in.
Price and compatibility
The TC Electronic Finalizer app is available for macOS and Windows. It uses the iLok copy protection system, which means that you’ll need an iLok account. The introductory price is USD 99, 50% off the regular price of USD 199. A free demo version is available.